Any activity that involves digging in the dirt or pouring water from a watering can is certain to attract children.
And having their parents involved got the children enthusiastic about tree-planting and saving the environment.
Last week, about a hundred children gathered in Kigali to plant trees as part of a wider campaign dubbed “My Kid is a superstar,” spearheaded by Rwanda’s Little Hands Go Green, an extension of the Ugandan NGO Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green.
The drive aimed at encouraging children to be passionate about environmental issues.
“This is a very successful start and the impact of the little one’s hands can be felt,” said Joseph Masembe, the chief executive officer of Little Hands Go Green.
Some children turned up in uniform to highlight their school’s support. From as young as four years old, and helped by their parents, the children planted more than 100 fruit trees — including avocado, orange, and mango.
The event started with music, a dance competition and other games.
The holes had already been dug in a nearby square plot.
As the adults unwrapped the sacking and relaxed the roots of the plants, the children put the dark soil mixed with compost into the holes.
While some gently set the trees in the middle of the holes, others added and stomped on the soil, then they all watered the young trees.
This exercise was accompanied by messages that planting a tree is a gift, not only to children and their families, but also to those in decades to come who will enjoy nutritious fruit or summertime shade.
This was the first undertaking of Little Hands Go Green, since the organisation was registered in Kigali last year. It has partnered with the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (Rema), Rwanda’s Green Fund and the Child and Earth organisation.
Rema encouraged parents to support their children in taking care of the environment.
“This is part of environmental education for our kids. When kids start planting trees at this early age, after five years or 10, they will be really happy to pick fruits from the trees they were involved in planting,” said Colette Ruhamya, the director general of Rema.
“When children grow up knowing the importance of a tree, they transmit this to their own children and to the next generation,” she added.
Everyone who planted a tree was given a certificate.
Rwanda is not among countries noted for high emissions of greenhouse gases, but air pollution still causes some problems, both for public health as well as for the cost of health care. It has been associated with diseases like bronchitis, asthma, and other respiratory conditions.
According to Masembe, the campaign will be rolled out countrywide with the aim of planting more than one million trees in one year.
He added that it is not the number of trees planted that motivates him, but the prospect of children growing up with the knowledge that they can contribute to making the planet better for themselves and for the next generation.
“The most important thing is not planting a tree; it is planting the green spirit,” he said.
“A child’s mind is like wet cement; every time you write on it is permanent,” he added.
He hopes the children and their parents will be encouraged to plant a tree at home.
“You are now part of the wider family that loves the environment and is ready to take care of it,” Masembe told the children as they were receiving their certificates.
“When you go back to your schools, to your homes, to visit your aunt, uncle or grandmother, tell them that you want to plant a tree,” he added.
The children were invited to come back regularly to check on the trees they had planted.